Do you know about the EU Package Travel Directive?

 

The EU Package Travel Directive (90/314/EEC) protects European consumers going on holiday and covers pre-arranged package holidays.

On 25 November 2015, the new Package Travel Directive  (2015/2302/EU) was adopted, bringing it up to date with the developments in the travel market.

The new Directive entered into force on 31 December 2015. Member States have to transpose it into law by 1 January 2018 and it will be applicable from 1 July 2018.

The rules will extend protection of the 1990 EU Package Travel Directive beyond traditional package holidays organised by tour operators, but will also give clear protection to 120 million consumers who book other forms of combined travel, e.g. a combination of a flight plus hotel or car rental put together on a website. Such combinations will be protected as package, in particular where the travel services are advertised as a package, are booked within the same booking process or where they are offered or charged at a total or inclusive price.

The new Directive applies to 3 different sorts of travel combinations:

  • Pre-arranged packages - ready-made holidays from a tour operator made up of at least 2 elements: transport, accommodation or other services, e.g. car rental;
  • Customised packages - selection of components for the same trip or holiday by the traveller and bought from a single business online or offline;
  • Linked travel arrangements – looser combinations of travel services, for instance if the traveller, after having booked one travel service on one website, is invited to book another service through a targeted link or similar and the second booking is made within 24 hours. In such cases the traveller has to be informed that he/she is not being offered a package, but that, under certain conditions, pre-payments will be protected.

The benefits to consumers

  • New information requirements for travellers: they must receive understandable information on the package and the protection they benefit from under package holiday rules.
  • More predictable prices: establishment of an 8% cap for possible price increases by the trader, beyond which travellers have the right to cancel their holiday free of charge.
  • Stronger cancellation rights: free cancellation before departure in case of natural disasters, war, or other serious situations at the destination. Package travellers will also be able to cancel their holiday irrespective of such circumstances by paying a reasonable cancellation fee (in addition to the right to transfer the package to another traveller).
  • Clear identification of the liable party: in all EU Member States the organiser of the package has to deal with the problem if something goes wrong. In addition Member States may decide that also the retailer (often a travel agent) is fully liable.
  • Clear liability for booking errors: traders will be made explicitly liable for booking errors in relation to packages and linked travel arrangements.
  • Clarification on essential consumer rights: the organiser is required to assist travellers in difficulty, for example where health assistance is needed.
  • Money-back guarantee and repatriation: if the package organiser goes bankrupt; these guarantees will under certain conditions apply also to linked travel arrangements.

The benefits for businesses

  • The new Directive will reduce the administrative burden on businesses and bring down compliance costs,
  • A level playing field: the same rules will apply for businesses across the EU selling competing travel products. The new harmonised approach will result in easier cross-border transactions.
  • Mutual recognition of insolvency protection: insolvency protection schemes will be recognised across the EU.
  • Business trips arranged by business travel management companies will no longer be included under the rules.
  • Modernised information requirements no longer based exclusively on travel brochures.
  • Less administrative burden, easier cross-border transactions and increased legal certainty will at the same time benefit businesses.

Implications for medical tourism agencies and facilitators

Article 14 allows an organiser to refuse to compensate or to limit any compensation to a consumer in certain circumstances. However, this does not extend to personal injury or damage caused intentionally or with negligence.

Article 13(1), the organiser is responsible for the performance of the travel services included in the contract. An organiser is defined as ‘a trader who combines and sells or offers for sale packages, either directly or through another trader.

Any agency that offers to arrange medical treatment in or from the EU, and also offers any other travel service, or even a link to another travel service,  will have to comply with the new rules just as any tour operator or travel agent does. Medical travel is not excluded from the new rules and as far as regulators are concerned there is no difference between holiday and medical travel.

No country has yet made moves to implement this and some countries have a history of missing EU legislative deadlines by years.

The big unknown is whether or not the UK will seek to implement the Directive as the UK will not exit the EU until March 2019.

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